Things to Do in Cape Cod: The Coast Guard Heritage Museum

By: Matt Romeo

The Coast Guard Heritage Museum is located in a historic custom’s house incoast guard heritage museum sign cape cod tourism Barnstable Village in Cape Cod, MA. The museum was created to tell the story of the Coast Guard with a focus on the story of the Coast Guard in Cape Cod. This is a perfect place to spend a rainy day in Cape Cod or if you are looking to pay your respects to this important branch of the US military.


The Coast Guard Heritage Museum is located at 3353 Main Street (Route 6A), Barnstable, Massachusetts 02630. For those of you walking to the museum, it is located in the historic Customs House on the corner of Main Street and Millway.

coast guard helicopter flying cape cod tourismThe museum is open from 10 AM to 3 PM Tuesday through Saturday. Make sure to check the museum website before going as it is only open seasonally. The price of admission is $5 per person unless you are under the age of 10 or are active-duty Coast Guard personnel. You are able to make an advanced reservation if you are concerned about purchasing tickets on-site.

What Do You Get for the Price of Admission?

When you purchase a $5 entry ticket to The Coast Guard Heritage Museum you get access to the 2,7000 square feet of displays that cover the history of The Coast Guard with special insight into its efforts in Massachusetts and Cape Cod.

In addition to entry to the museum, you can get a handheld audio tour to help guide you through the different exhibits without any additional charge. Additionally, there are typically two volunteer docents on staff that will give guided tours.

An Overview of The Coast Guard Heritage Museum

The first floor of the museum covers the early years of The Coast Guard starting with its predecessor organizations: the US Revenue Cutter Service and the US Life Saving Service. Additionally, you can find additional exhibits covering the following information on the first floor:

coast guard white ship dock cape cod island

  • The finest hours rescue (the rescue of the Pendleton in 1952)
  • Special displays on navigation
  • A large-scale model of the active Coast Guard Cutter Campbell
  • The World War II-era cutter Cayuga

The fun does not end there. When you move to the second floor you will find a room that is wholly dedicated to the US Life Saving Service along with its subsidiary the US Light Ship Service. Additionally, you can find exhibits upstairs covering:

  • Rescue boats and small coastal patrol boats
  • The Marine Environmental Protection Commission
  • Coast Guard at War (covering from the war of 1812 through the modern-day)
  • Collection of different uniforms throughout the years
  • Coast Guard Aviation
  • Icebreakers

There is also a special display that covers the two Coast Guard astronauts that were provided to NASA. Essentially there is something in the museum for any Coast Guard lover.

The US Customs House Building

The building that houses the Coast Guard Heritage Museum is a historical artifact in itself. In fact, it has been on the National Register for Historic Places since 1975.

group at coast guard taking pictures cape cod museumIn the mid-1800s Barnstable became home to one of the busiest ports in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. While customs activities would typically take place in the house of the collector, Sylvanus Phinney convinced the Treasury Department to build a customs house, because of the increased business.

The red-brick style of building is extremely unique to the area; however, it was the standard style of build for the Treasury Department. Additionally, the cast-iron structure of the two-story building was abnormally advanced for the era.

The building has played home to a variety of occupants as it has housed a local post office, county extension services, and the Barnstable Historical Society. The building was taken over by The Coast Guard Heritage Museum in 2005 when the Barnstable Historical Society moved to a new location.

Why Cape Cod?

The Coast Guard Heritage Museum is one of only two free-standing museums that is dedicated to the history of the US Coast Guard. Why was Cape Cod chosen for this honor?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the birthplace of the US Coast Guard. In addition, being a very popular coastal destination, Cape Cod has a rich history of Coast Guard tradition.

Next time you are visiting, make sure to save some time to check out the Coast Guard Heritage Museum and all it has to offer.

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